Echoes of RSS?

by Simon St. Laurent

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There's been a lot of excitement recently around the Echo weblog format (formerly known as Pie), and hopes that a fresh start will help the weblog community move past the infighting that's snarled RSS. I share some of that hope, but also recognize that RSS isn't just complicated because of personalities - it's complicated because there are some genuinely hard issues underneath it.

I've done my best to stay out of RSS, though I did edit (thankfully not write) a book on it. I'm not known for my reluctance to get out the flamethrower, but the RSS flames have been extra-hot for a long time, and I don't have that much asbestos to spend on it.

There's a lot more to fights over RSS than personality. The questions that RSS answers are pretty tough questions, not to mention that the list of questions has changed and expanded regularly over time. Different people come to RSS with different expectations and different hopes, and every now and then someone throws a platypus into the mix. RSS has always included more than channels and items, but the variety of things it covers has grown over time. Some people want RSS to provide full XHTML content or access to multimedia features, others want much less or much more.

Creating interchange formats that make a lot of people happy is a tough project. Extensibility and modularity are important for balancing these kinds of needs, but they often add overhead (XML namespaces, RDF) that some people can't stand. Choosing which pieces go into a core and which pieces don't is a difficult problem. Some of these problems are issues that affect most standards projects, but RSS has an enormously diverse audience, with perhaps too many knowledgable vendors and consumers (over 100 on this page alone). There are a lot of cats to herd here, and "forward motion" still offers one hundred and eighty degrees of possibility.

I wish the particpants luck, but I plan to stay well away from it. I suspect some people will be glad for one fewer likely dissenter during the process, but it's really only for my own sanity. At least they did choose a different name. I'm glad about that.

Can Echo escape recent history?


2003-06-26 15:35:03
Well, I'm NOT glad about the new name
The name was settled on "Echo" within what seems a 48 hour time period of discussion at best, closing before any significant claims against the use of the name Echo were posted.

This meant there was little time to do a name-search that's an aboslute necesssity for any corporation or proper standards body to conduct. Name-searches are required to avoid user/customer confusion, and also to avoid potential Trademark disputes. When a potential name or acronym is selected, one must weigh the advantages of the name against the disadvantages to the community if the name is already used, and also the degree of success one might achieve at hijacking the name with sufficient marketting and publicity.

Echo is already a name for a product, a Java web application framework, that just released its 1.0 earlier this month, and very nicely under the LGPL license (

By choosing "Echo", the Wiki participants have effectively hijacked that name and may potentially destroy a product from a company doing TheRightThing (tm), before that product even gets off the ground. The amount of links and discussion going on with the RSS-replacement effort is going to quickly overwhelm the other both in Google and in Java-specific places like JavaBlogs.

2003-06-26 19:41:06
Let's call it RSS
> At least they did choose a different name. I'm
> glad about that.

What a chicken. Using a different name such as Echo or Pie or whatever is just spreading confusion. Show some courage and stick with RSS. If the new format is better all others will upgrade.

2003-06-27 02:37:04
A better name

1. Psychiatry. The immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others, often a symptom of autism or some types of schizophrenia.

2. An infant's repetition of the sounds made by others, a normal occurrence in childhood development.

Seems to describe blog content much better ;)

2003-07-01 22:51:18
Well, I'm NOT glad about the new name
Foo! I highly doubt that a Java framework can be confused with a hypertext syndication format. Thus as both Echoes have different domains, then there's no hijacking going on (unless you're a conspiracy theorist and think that the Bloggers have a thing against Java Developers). It's not as if there was already an Echo in the xml-syndication format (cough… RSS 2.0 fiasco… cough)!

Furthermore, I assert that name-searches are mostly useless. If I look up "echo" on a search engine, then I expect to get results about sound propagation - NOT JAVA or XML! On the other hand, if I look up "Echo OOP" then results for NextApp's stuff would make sense. Strutting and fretting about "name dilution" is stupid (in this case). Besides, Echo-the-term makes more sense as a syndication format than an OO application framework, IMWIO.

In summary, if two projects with the same name have different domains, then everything's cool. Don't worry and risk being cast as a poor player.

P.S. (sorry for the rant)